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The Dam Busters (1955)

Approved | | Drama, History, War | 16 July 1955 (USA)
The story of how the British attacked German dams in WWII by using an ingenious technique to drop bombs where they would be most effective.



(book), (based on Wing Comdr. Gibson's own account in "Enemy Coast Ahead") (as Wing Comdr. Gibson) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Doctor B. N. Wallis, C.B.E., F.R.S.
Mrs. Wallis
Captain Joseph (Mutt) Summers, C.B.E.
Ernest Clark ...
Group Captain J. N. H. Whitworth, D.S.O., D.F.C.
Stanley Van Beers ...
Sir David Pye, C.B., F.R.S.
Colin Tapley ...
Doctor W. H. Glanville, C.B., C.B.E.
Frederick Leister ...
Committee Member
Eric Messiter ...
Committee Member
Laidman Browne ...
Committee Member
Raymond Huntley ...
Official, National Physical Laboratory
Hugh Manning ...
Official, Ministry of Aircraft Production


The British are desperate to shorten the length of WW2 and propose a daring raid to smash Germany's industrial heart. At first the objective looks impossible until a British scientist invents an ingenious weapon capable of destroying the planned target. Written by Dave Jenkins <david.jenkins@smallworld.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The story of the "bombs that had to bounce" - and the air-devils who had to drop 'em! See more »


Drama | History | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

16 July 1955 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Dambusters  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The RAF supplied most of the aircraft, at a cost of £130 per hour. This expense consumed 10% of the film's budget. See more »


The "full size tests" show a de Havilland Mosquito dropping a Highball prototype from a height very much greater than the 150 feet mentioned in the script. See more »


Air Vice-Marshal Cochrane: [showing Gibson a model of the targets] Well, Gibson, there it is. That's your main target - the Moehne Dam.
Gibson: So *that's* it. I thought it was going to be the "Tirpitz".
Air Vice-Marshal Cochrane: If you can blow a hole in this wall...
[points to model]
Air Vice-Marshal Cochrane: -you'll bring the Ruhr steel industry to a standstill; and do much other damage besides. I'm showing you the targets. But you'll be the only man in the squadron who knows, so keep it that way.
Gibson: Very good, sir.
Air Vice-Marshal Cochrane: [indicates other models] And these are the models of the two other ...
See more »


Referenced in Super Gran: Supergran and the Birthday Dambuster (1987) See more »


The Dam Busters
by Eric Coates
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Steady, Steady....... Bomb Gone!
17 October 2004 | by (Bristol, UK) – See all my reviews

I personally went to school in the town where the Raids were monitored from (Grantham) by Wallis and Harris. There is hardly any memorabilia recording this local fact, and no-one would ever know. I know of RAF Scampton too, which I believe has closed down some years ago. For Lincolnshire, the Dams Raid is remembered poignantly, as the 617 Squadron, who now fly Tornados

in Scotland, was formed and trained there. They practised on the Derwent Reservoir near Sheffield, and the Eyebrook Reservoir in Leicestershire.

Sir Barnes Wallis thought in innovative ways, and the fact that this 'far out' idea of bouncing bombs on a lake, actually breached two dams is an engineering marvel. To do so under heavy flak is beating the odds. Wallis and 617 Squadron collaborated again with the Tallboy and Grand Slam 'earthquake' bombs, which destroyed many important railway viaducts and tunnels, as well as sinking the Tirpitz.

Richard Todd, after the film, moved 3 miles from Grantham. Maybe the film was the reason for this.

The film is one of few about RAF Bomber Command, and is a good portrayal of the danger involved. 41% of crew were killed (55,000). After early 1944, the loss rate rapidly decreased, as the Luftwaffe had been destroyed, so from 1940-3 I would guess 60-70% of crew were killed, for the whole campaign. It may be higher. The RAF didn't even know the Germans had excellent radar until early 1942. The film is about team work and working under stress - your immediate future depended on 6 other people. Many things could go wrong along the way. It is also about strong resilience to new ideas. i.e. The RAF could have had jet planes before 1939 if they'd have developed Whittle's ideas in the 1930s, instead of foolishly waiting 10 whole years until 1941. Whittle was then humiliated after the war by forcing him to give all his designs to the Americans, who didn't waste any time in treating the idea as their own.

When I first saw the film, I thought the special effects were weak and I was astonished a bomb bounced in the first place. When older and seeing it again, you can empathise more with the RAF crews and the skill and daring they would need. It focuses on one story line, and does not have American accents mysteriously appearing from nowhere. I think at the time Guy Gibson was about 25. Imagine yourself having that responsibility at 25.

Many of the 'Upkeep' mines that were bounced, completely missed the targets. Certainly for the Eder dam, there was just one mine left, and was dropped in the right place and destroyed the dam in 'one go'. The film gives the impression many were exploded to breach the dam, but actually a single one did the 'job'.

The Germans are never shown, and I would love to have known what they thought seeing this strange sight of bombs skimming the water's surface. I think Spielberg would have enjoyed making this film, but half of it would have been about the Germans. If the dams had been breached six months earlier, when a water pumping system had not been installed, the Germans would have been seriously up the creek with no paddles. The Ruhr Industry would have been unable to function at all. Do not underestimate what hypothetical difference the dams breach could have made to the Germans in their biggest industrial area.

Do women enjoy the film too, or is all the technical wizardry just for the male audience?

Why did Pink Floyd use it in their film 'The Wall'? Carling Black Label used the lake scenes many times in notorious adverts.

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